Today's D Brief: J6 oversight hearings begin; Boeing’s new Air Force One problem; Gun control measure passes in the House; ‘Intense’ street fighting in Ukraine; And a bit more.
Insurrection oversight begins on the Hill. U.S. congressional hearings begin tonight for the failed insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021—wrapping up some 11 months of investigation and closed-door testimony. Live televised coverage is expected to begin at 8 p.m. ET on all major news networks but one.
ICYMI: Fox Corp. execs will move the hearings off of their news channel, and bump their news anchors to its lower-performing business channel instead. It’s a curious choice in light of the historic nature of frankly any attempted insurrection here in the states; but the coverage strategy is, of course, very on-brand for Fox and its overwhelmingly Republican-leaning audience. The Associated Press and the New York Times have more on the topic.
About that choice: “Under U.S. law, freedom of the press means that Fox absolutely has the right to do this,” New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen tweeted Tuesday. “By not carrying Thursday's hearing Fox is standing up for the rights of its viewers—more specifically, the right not to know. Not to see,” he said, and clarified: “There is a kind of perverse public service standard there. Fox is protecting its public from the news.”
What to expect on day one: Lawmakers plan to lay out “a complete timeline of the riot, beginning with the 2020 election and extending through the riot itself and its aftermath,” according to a Wednesday preview from the New York Times.
Get smart: Former Pentagon counsel Ryan Goodman has helped curate a “clearing house” of related documents, transcripts, hearings, court cases, and academic research into the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Goodman and Justin Hendrix presented all of that in one place on Tuesday at Just Security. (You can even receive a daily newsletter from Just Security that focuses on the Jan. 6 hearings. Sign up for that, here.)
As for Republican lawmakers, “House GOP leaders have decried the inquiry as a politicized sham, while some of their own members still refuse to say Biden fairly won the election,” Politico reminds us, reporting Thursday. Their headline: “Dems know the Jan. 6 hearings won't help in November. They're leaning in anyway.”
Bigger picture: “Republican leaders are objecting to the hearings and trying to distract attention from them,” writes veteran journalist and media critic Dan Froomkin, “but [they] have yet to put forth a single piece of evidence that contradicts the committee’s emerging narrative or supports the Big Lie that, in fact, has become a central tenet of their party and a major theme of their campaigns to win back Congress in the 2022 midterm elections.”
For your ears only: Late last week, WNYC’s “On the Media” radio news magazine aired a 17-minute preview of the Jan. 6 hearings. You can find that here.
Related reading: “Obama to deliver warning of democracy’s peril against twin backdrops: Jan. 6 and Ukraine,” via Politico, reporting ahead of two events this weekend, including the Copenhagen Democracy Summit.
From Defense One
Boeing Can’t Find Enough Workers to Build the New Air Force One // Marcus Weisgerber: A new GAO report details the latest setback for the presidential planemaker.
After Deadly Aviation Crashes, Congress May Tighten Pentagon Focus on Why // Tara Copp: 2023 budget also seeks report on risks to anti-tank and anti-aircraft munition stockpiles after U.S. surge to Ukraine.
Welcome to this Thursday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. And check out other Defense One newsletters here. On this day in 1954, the U.S. Army's chief counsel, Joseph Welch, pleaded to Wisconsin Republican Sen. Joseph McCarthy on the floor of the Senate, “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
“Intense street fighting” in Ukraine’s east. Some Russian forces are being pushed back by Ukrainian troops in the eastern city of Severodonetsk, Reuters reports on location Thursday—and describes the ongoing struggle there as “one of the war's bloodiest” so far.
There’s been a noticeable rise in Russian psyops targeting Ukrainian forces, analysts from the Institute for the Study of War write in their latest battlefield assessment. These include messages on Telegram, Viber, Signal, and WhatsApp, which “use location information to threaten to harm Ukrainian soldiers or their family members.”
Russian-backed troops just put a death sentence on two Brits and a Moroccan man for fighting on the side of Ukraine. The three men now have one month to appeal before they face a firing squad in Ukraine’s occupied Donetsk People’s Republic, according to the Associated Press, reporting Thursday from Donetsk.
Norway just gave Ukraine 22 howitzers for the artillery war in the east, Oslo’s defense ministry announced in a short statement Wednesday. “Future donations may not be announced or commented upon,” the statement reads.
The global humanitarian response to Ukraine is the focus of a House hearing Friday morning before the Oversight and Reform Committee. That one’s slated for 9 a.m. ET; details here.
- “The Fight to Survive Russia’s Onslaught in Eastern Ukraine,” via the New Yorker’s Joshua Yaffa, reporting Tuesday on location in the Donbas, “where the shelling is constant, Ukrainian soldiers often never see their enemy, and Russia makes fitful, plodding gains”;
- “U.S., European Allies Try to Restrain Global Oil Prices,” via the Wall Street Journal, reporting Thursday;
- “Photos: More Than 100 Days of War in Ukraine,” via The Atlantic’s photo editor Alan Taylor, who curated this batch on Wednesday;
- And “Russian propaganda efforts aided by pro-Kremlin content creators, research finds,” via NBC News, reporting Wednesday off new analysis from the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue.
House lawmakers passed a bill Wednesday that could affect the dynamics contributing to America’s unique run of school shootings. But the reforms have what appear to be fairly long odds of success, given reliably stiff Republican opposition.
The package of legislation would “raise the legal age to buy certain semiautomatic centerfire rifles from 18 to 21 years old, establish new federal offenses for gun trafficking and for selling large-capacity magazines, and allow local governments to compensate individuals who surrender such magazines through a buyback program,” according to CNN. There’s also “a tax incentive for retail sales of safe storage devices and criminal penalties for breaking new requirements regulating firearm storage on residential premises,” as well as new “steps to strengthen existing federal regulations on bump stocks and ghost guns.”
The national mood: A majority of Americans “say it's more important to control gun violence than to protect gun rights,” according to a new survey from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist. “The 59%-to-35% margin is the widest in favor of controlling gun violence recorded in a decade in the Marist poll,” NPR’s Domenico Montanaro reported Thursday.
There remains, however, a “sharp partisan divide,” with 92% of Democrats and 54% of independents preferring efforts to control gun violence, and 70% of Republicans favoring gun rights. And those figures were fairly well reflected in the House voting tally Wednesday, 223-204, with five Republicans voting for the changes, and two Democrats voting against.
But with the Senate split 50-50, few expect this House package to survive a Senate filibuster, requiring 60 votes of approval before the bill can head to the president’s desk.
For the record: Only one of the approving House GOPers to vote yes is up for reelection soon, and that’s Pennsylvania’s Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick—a former FBI agent and prosecutor, according to Bloomberg’s Steven Dennis.
Bye-bye (most) JSTARS? Congress may allow the Air Force to get rid of most of its JSTARS fleet of ground surveillance aircraft, Air Force Magazine reports off of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee markup of the 2023 NDAA.
The service wants to retire 12 of its 16 E-8 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System planes, but is blocked from doing so by a provision in the 2019 NDAA that requires the service to keep six JSTARS. The aircraft just this year began to fulfill the exact mission it was built for, as Defense One’s Marcus Weisgerber reported in February, but Air Force officials have said it would not survive a high-end fight.
In other Air Force news, the service has awarded contracts to a trio of companies for phase one of an effort to develop an air-to-ground stand-in attack weapon for the F-35, Defense News reported Wednesday. Details, here.
Lastly today: It can be easy to forget that American troops are still fighting terrorism in nearly a dozen countries worldwide, but it’s true. The list of hosting nations and regions include Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Niger and around the Lake Chad Basin in the African Sahel, and in the Philippines. That’s according to the latest congressionally-mandated war powers report the White House provides lawmakers every six months.
And don’t miss two veterans discussing the seen and unseen effects of America’s “long” and “invisible wars” in our Defense One Radio podcast from mid-May, here.